Snapshots of Congress 2013

The 82nd Congress for the Humanities and Social Sciences was held last week on the UVic campus. From June 1 to June 8, approximately 7 000 delegates from over 70 universities or other academic associations visited UVic to speak in and attend presentations, panels, films and dramatic readings, delving into such topics as translation studies, carbon taxes, racism, Slavic literature and heavy metal. The Congress, hosted each year by a different Canadian university, was last hosted by UVic in 1990, when the event was known as the Learneds Conference.

The theme of this year’s conference was “@ The Edge.” Among over 100 individual events, the Big Thinking speaker series punctuated the Congress program. The speakers and their topics were Louise Arbour on deadly conflict, Dany Laferrière on writing, Margaret McCain on early childhood development, Ben Levin on policy and practice, Joy Kogawa on writingher memoir, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond on inequality, Doug Saunders on Muslim experience in the West, Daniel Weinstock on political philosophy, Judith Heumann on disability and George Dyson on digital evolution. WorldFEST, June 2 in the quad, showcased flavours of both food and music from Africa, Latin America and other regions. The Canadian Society for the Study of Religion exhibited “South of Heaven,” a heavy metal and religion display, on campus over the week.

Green-, blue-, orange- and yellow-shirted Congress volunteers, workers and AV assistants spread across the campus like mobile pins on a map. Congress converted McKinnon Gym into its Expo hub, filling it with university and bookstore kiosks, holding speeches and serving wine and cheese. Info and food booths abounded, a soundstage and beer tent were erected in the quad. A pedicab carried passengers from building to building. On June 3, a fire pit was dug for a First Nations meal, near the trees often used for slacklining. The uneaten fare was later offered free downtown. Meditation walks took place on several days. Buffy Sainte Marie sang in the quad on the evening of June 6.

Next year’s Congress, titled “Borders Without Boundaries,” will take place at Brock University in St. Catherines, Ont.

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